I strive to utilize my background in art and multimedia to step outside of the purely textual and introduce my students to critical works in film, art, and music. Being engaged by the professor through insightful lectures and compelling group discussions is the thread that connects every successful classroom I've been a part of — whether as a student or an instructor.
The classroom becomes an instructional device unto itself: it is not merely about the content, but teaches the students how to develop the skill of close listening and attention to detail. During my time as a master's student at Wyoming, I was interviewed about how I weave my research on spatial theory into teaching writing. I invite my students to reflect on the built and natural environment they inhabit. When teaching a book like White Noise, I bring my class out to a shopping mall where we imagine what it would be like to observe the protagonist as one of the faces in the crowd. I prompt my students to photograph spaces in the mall that remind them of the book, the photo-essay they produce becomes a reflection on the text and how they start to see the commercial world differently. This is what constitutes true critical thinking: the ability to move between the conceptual and the real. By stepping out of the classroom, my students learn to critically engage with the world. They learn how to see the underlying textual make-up of a space and connect the abstract ideas they've learned in class to every book they pick up, and every walk around town they take.
In the fall of 2018 I was granted the opportunity to teach a course of my own design at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution through the Wyoming Pathways from Prison program. Structured as a seminar and a writing workshop, the course was titled "Alternative Autobiographies." Featuring texts like Lyn Hejinian’s My Life and Joe Brainard’s I Remember, the class prompted students to experiment with and break from traditional storytelling techniques. The experience of watching twelve men in orange jumpsuits discuss Hejinian’s construction of self and debate the meaning of a fragmented narrative revealed their capacity to reimagine the genre of autobiography as something that didn’t need to follow a simple chronology. Although they were dismissive of Hejinian’s peculiar style at first, they ended up producing some of their best writing when they imitated her method and wrote from their own memories.
In the fall of 2022 I taught a course titled Cults and Conspiracies. We looked at the materials produced by cults and conspiracy theorists as our primary texts. Students learned to examine everything from initiation videos, musical compositions, and recordings of seminars led by cult leaders to better understand these phenomena.
Cults & Conspiracies
Duke University, Fall 2022
What is it that possesses people to turn towards cults and conspiracy theories at times of social and political turmoil? How do cults reflect and distort our contemporary values? What do we make of an organization such as Qanon that turns conspiracy theories into political action? This course studies how we imagine and build community, but we will move to the fringe and extremes of society to begin our examination. We will explore the sociological experiments of 20th-century and contemporary cults and attempt to make sense of the written and visual material they’ve left behind.